Leah Scott, OBA Deputy Leader

Bermuda’s ageing bus fleet continues to present challenges and frustrations for daily commuters.

The PLP criticized the former OBA government for not filling 14 mechanic positions, which, in the opinion of the now government, caused the lack of sufficient buses being available to meet demand. Accordingly, the Government promised to acquire new buses and immediately fill six vacant maintenance positions.

In January, the first of four new buses were landed on the docks, with a further three buses expected within four months. Transport Minister Walter Roban said: “In the weeks and months ahead, we anticipate a substantial improvement in the status quo.” The Minister also said that the Government had taken steps to overhaul a number of the buses to breathe new life into them.

But so far this month there have been almost 400 bus route cancellations, including an astounding 86 in one day. This is unacceptable. From the alarming number of cancellations recently, it seems that a number of buses remain on life support!

With an increased bus fleet and new staff, why are there still so many bus cancellations? The existing bus schedule is 17 years old. Implementing a new bus schedule would enable effective deployment of the buses.

Following discussions held between the Department of Public Transportation’s management team and the BIU leadership, circa 2014 to 2016, a new bus schedule was agreed. The proposed schedule would have required an overall bus fleet of about 90 buses. This would have been allowed for a rotational maintenance schedule which place about 66 roadworthy buses on the various bus routes each day. A new schedule would also have resulted in a massive reduction in driver overtime.

The bus schedule is always subject to a vote by the Bus Operators and the Allied Workers Division. The proposed new schedule was a rejected at a vote, although how that vote was taken is not known.

In the March 2018 Budget Debate, in response to a question raised by the then Opposition Leader, Jeanne Atherden, regarding the new bus schedule, Minister Roban said: “The [aforementioned] cancellations are a direct result of the lack of vehicles available to service the current schedule. A new bus schedule has been developed to meet the available resources and will allow the effective dissemination of information to the passengers. The new schedule has been crafted to streamline the service on routes that are used less frequently and to bolster the service in the areas of the island that present the most demand. Once the consultation process involving the relevant stakeholders is complete “the schedule will be implemented”.

Minister Roban, during that same debate, stated that: “The number of buses out of service each day plagued the department for 2017/18. But, with a multi-pronged approach of new and refurbished buses, staff training and recruitment, 2018/19 is anticipated to be a more successful year. Or, should I say, a better year, rather than “more successful”, because last year was not successful. So I will change that to mean a better year.

We need a new bus schedule and a bus fleet that can effectively service our students, our ageing population, differently abled persons, and local and visitors alike who find themselves stranded at night because there are no buses running. Therefore, I ask, what is the Government’s position on implementing a new bus schedule?

The Hon Leah Scott, JP, MP – Deputy Leader, One Bermuda Alliance